Fighting crime and helping citizens may be the superhero actions chronicled in comic books, but you may be surprised to find out that Toronto has a real-life superhero of its own.
Brandon Lee Wadsworth, also known as ‘Charade,’ is a real- life superhero based in the city. Partially masked, he probes the downtown core in his spare time to help citizens in need.
Wadsworth primarily focuses his efforts on the city’s homeless population, offering them life-saving supplies such as blankets, food, water and hygienic products. During the wintry months, he helps them find shelter to ensure that they don’t spend their nights out in the cold.
“I’ll hand out care packages and go out with a bio-hazard waste disposal unit and get rid of needles,” Wadsworth explained.
The Real Life Superhero community, also known as R.L.S.H., is an international network of individuals that disguise themselves as superheroes to protect their cities and inspire acts of kindness. According to Tea Krulos, author of Heroes in the Night, these citizen superheroes want to see their communities become a better place.
“(They) organize charity events and projects like handing out supplies to homeless people or organizing patrols similar to a community block watch,” says Krulos.
Wadsworth was inspired to begin his patrols after he heard that a homeless man had frozen to death on the streets of downtown Toronto, where he laid lifeless for hours before anyone noticed. For the past five years, Wadsworth has tried to do everything in his power to help others avoid the same fate.
Unfortunately, the superhero business is in decline because of Canada’s laws against masking one’s identity.
According to Canada’s Criminal Code, section 351 (2), “every one who … has his face masked … or is otherwise disguised is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment.” This has resulted in many erring on the side of caution when wearing their costumes in public, or has caused them to give the practise up altogether.
Because of this, Wadsworth feels that a strong knowledge of the law is the best defence for any real-life superhero.
“It’s good to have a lawyer on your side before you start doing this type of work,” he advised.
Having a lawyer is a great help in certain cases where a hero finds themselves faced with a lawsuit or arrested for disorderly conduct.
This was the case for ‘Beast’, a U.S.-based real-life superhero who was arrested shortly after the 2012 Colorado theatre shooting. Despite wanting to help, his black costume and Batman-style mask made people fear that he was a copycat of the shooter and alerted him to the authorities, ending his heroic career.
However, run-ins with the law aren’t common for Wadsworth. As a personal rule, he always phones the authorities before he goes out on patrol and lets them know where he will be. Because of his openness, he hasn’t had a single problem with the law as his alias, Charade.
Wadsworth continues to represent what may be a fleeting movement. He says most of the heroes he knows are helpful and admirable people carrying out “genuine random acts of kindness.
“(It’s about) stepping up in your life sometimes and helping others.”